It is with good reason that Pennsylvania's sportsmen – or, more accurately, hunters – look with pride at our system of State Game Lands.

In 1919, the Pennsylvania Game Commission was granted authority to purchase lands for the protection, propagation and management of game and wildlife, and to provide areas for public hunting and trapping. Since that time, the PGC has acquired more than 1.4 million acres in 65 of the state's 67 counties Philadelphia and Delaware counties being the exceptions.

Those lands have been paid for and maintained in part through the purchase of hunting licenses, and state law requires that each year the Pennsylvania Game Commission must spend a specific amount of money on habitat improvement. That minimum is based on an established rate of $4.25 for each resident and nonresident adult general hunting license and $2 for each antlerless deer license.

During the 2010-11 license year, the PGC sold 818,557 resident and nonresident adult general hunting licenses and 798,568 antlerless deer licenses, for a total minimum of $5,076,003. In actuality, however, the agency spent $6,700,000 on habitat improvement projects, which was $1,623,997 more that the minimum mandated by legislation.

While hunters are fully aware of these projects, as part of the PGC's efforts to highlight its ongoing habitat improvement initiatives, the public is invited to take part in upcoming free tours of several SGL between Saturday, Sept. 22 and Sunday, Oct. 14.

"State Game Land tours provide the opportunity for those who enjoy nature to come out and talk with our employees – the people who are directly responsible for managing and protecting these lands," PGC executive director Carl Roe said. "With autumn nearly here, these tours will provide a chance to see some of the best scenery the Commonwealth has to offer.

"These tours afford hunters and trappers and others who appreciate wildlife the opportunity to see how the Game Commission is spending hunting and furtaker license fees to acquire and to manage these lands for wildlife. With few exceptions, State Game Lands were purchased using revenues from hunting and furtaker license sales."

Other sources of income is provided by State Game Lands timber, coal, oil, gas and mineral operation revenues; the state's share of a federal excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition, known as the Pittman-Robertson Program; from Working Together for Wildlife artwork and patch sales; and from the Pennsylvania Waterfowl Management stamp and print sales.

Here is the schedule for upcoming tours of regional SGLs:

Potter County: Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 p.m., State Game Land 64, consisting of nearly 8,100 acres. Tour participants will meet at the E.F. Dean gravel/trucking facility on Route 6, which is 2.5 miles west from the traffic light in Galeton and depart at 1 p.m. for State Game Land 64. The two- to three-hour tour will showcase habitat projects on SLG 64 at five stops, and will be held rain or shine. Participants must travel in own vehicles or car-pool with other tour participants. Four-wheel drive clearance is recommended; the roads that the tour will travel on are not suited for sedans and cars. Tour participants should be able to walk short distances over uneven terrain.

Luzerne/Wyoming Counties: Sunday, Oct.7, registration from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., State Game Land 57 headquarters building, Ricketts Station. SGLs 57 consists of nearly 44,600 acres and Game Commission personnel will be on hand to explain various points of interest, including wildlife habitat improvement projects. Four-wheel-drive vehicles with high clearance are strongly recommended for this 14-mile, self-guided driving tour, which will begin at the SGL 57 maintenance building and travels Southbrook, Shale Pit, Beech Lake, and Mountain Springs Roads back to the building.

The tour will pass habitat improvement projects completed by the SGL 57 Food and Cover Corps crew, National Wild Turkey Federation, Quality Deer Management Association and Ducks Unlimited. Representatives from the Game Commission and conservation organizations will be on hand to explain the projects and answer questions.

Directions: Take Route 487 north at the intersection of Route 118 and proceed 7.5 miles and turn onto a dirt road near SGL sign on right. Travel on dirt road one-tenth of a mile to a "Y" intersection and proceed left three-tenths of a mile to the headquarters complex. Each vehicle will be provided a map and brief explanation of wildlife management programs being carried out on this magnificent tract of public hunting land.

Berks/Schuylkill counties: Sunday, Oct. 14, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., State Game Land 110, which encompasses nearly 10,150 acres of historical, scenic and recreational property in a two-county area. The nine-mile trip will begin at the agency's parking lot on Mountain Road, midway between the Shartlesville Exit of Interstate 78 and Route 61; and will exit onto Route 183, north of Strausstown. Game Commission Officers will be on hand to answer questions relating to Game Commission programs and activities.